A common question I’m asked after a couple has just had a child is: “When can we have sex again?” The short answer is: “When it feels right”. Sadly it is most often he who is ready before she is so when it doesn’t happen as he expects then this can lead to feelings of frustration and even alienation from the new mum and her baby.
Low or absent sexual desire is a very common experience after pregnancy; a reduction in sexual interest and activity, compared with pre-pregnancy levels, is really the norm during the first few months.
Studies have found that more than half of women resume intercourse at six weeks after delivery; By 24 weeks more than 80% of women were ready to be sexual again. The majority of the women even reported being able to come to orgasm by 12 weeks. And most studies indicate a gradual return to pre-pregnancy levels of sexual desire, enjoyment, and coital frequency within a year.
The return to making love is strongly influenced by the mother’s experience before pregnancy, her physiology, and her emotional and psychological make-up as well as by the culture she has been raised in.
The physical impact of giving birth is generally complete somewhere between four and six weeks. Research has shown that this differs little between those who have given birth vaginally as opposed to those who have had a cesarean birth. However the mother may still be weary for some time especially if the baby is not feeding well or is restless and taking time to settle down to a good sleep routine.
And then there is the emotional impact which may take longer to recover from. Here also every woman makes progress in her own time and in her own way.
Emotional disturbance very often takes the form of post natal depression, sometimes affectionately called, “post natal blues”. This can be as mild as feeling restless or as serious as contemplating harming the child or the mother herself.
Good old-fashioned Mother Nature is probably the greatest villain here.
While ensuring that the mother’s milk supply stays high, breastfeeding can negatively affect sexual desire whilst also guarding against a future pregnancy too soon. The reason is that estrogen levels decline during breastfeeding, which, sadly, also means that sexual interest also declines.
Vaginal lubrication also decreases which can lead to pain with intercourse which is also a way of ensuring that you don’t get into mischief while your new baby still needs so much of your attention.
The baby also makes sure that the mother’s attention is totally on her or him to ensure that this child has the best chance of surviving without having to compete with anyone else. This includes the father who, so far as this child is concerned, has fulfilled his part of the bargain.
So what does all this mean for the couple?
Firstly it means that as well as dealing with a new baby and all that entails it also means that you now have to patiently focus your energies on this child until you are not required 24/7 anymore.
In the meanwhile you can start to take any moment this child allows you to do some nice things for each other that are not necessarily going to lead to intercourse. Bathe together, massage each other, have a sleep in, if your baby will let you, and rest when your baby is asleep rather than trying to use this time to catch up on chores. Also take time out, as it is offered by friends and family, to go out and share a meal together or go to the movies.
Other forms of sexual expression, such as touching, kissing, and mutual pleasuring techniques, besides just being nice to do, can also help to re-establish physical closeness with your partner. So take your time getting to know each other again.
Whatever else you do go slowly!!
Then when the time is right begin to reintroduce more sexually based activities into your schedule. The use of water-based vaginal lubricants can help reduce discomfort during intercourse. Vaginal moisturizers also can relieve vaginal dryness and pain.
And don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to intercourse. Masturbate each other or with each other until you are both sufficiently aroused to take it to the next step.
And don’t forget to use some form of contraception. Breastfeeding is not a guarantee against falling pregnant. And I should know as that is how I conceived my fourth child seven months after delivering my third and whilst still breast feeding and feeling absolutely exhausted chasing after two other pre-schoolers.
Finally, take heart. Enjoyment of sexual intercourse will return, even if it is gradual, after childbirth. Give it time and enjoy the little bundle of joy you have created from your love for each other.
So until next time – Relate with Love